Of all the changes that happened in Georgetown this summer, one in particular is sure to make working students smile. On July 1, the long-awaited increase of the Washington, D.C. minimum wage took effect, boosting the hourly wage from $8.25 to $9.50.
By July 2016, workers in D.C. — Corp cashiers and Phonathon callers included — will earn at least $11.50 an hour, with mandatory annual increases pegged to the area’s consumer price index.
According to Mayor Vincent Gray, this increase “will enable all District workers to earn a decent living,” and some estimates say that as many as 40,000 D.C. workers (excluding commuters) will see their wages increase. But when Gray cites the benefit to “all District workers,” he omits a sizeable portion of D.C.’s workforce who still work for no wage at all: interns.
Gray’s plan to combat poverty by increasing the minimum wage in D.C. is a laudable one. And the 40,000 workers who saw their wages increase this summer are certainly deserving of that necessary bump. However, the focus on a living wage in D.C. should extend to those entering the workforce as interns, and those who, as it stands, remain unable to pursue internship opportunities because of the sacrifices in pay they require.
Opposing unpaid internships and pushing for paid entry-level opportunities for D.C. students and recent graduates would further establish the city’s commitment to wage equity. Ensuring that wages exceed expenses in D.C. is necessary, and the increase in minimum wage drives this goal forward. But until the city extends this accomplishment to unpaid interns, its leaders should not claim to have fought for all D.C. workers.